At the end of the year

RATHER LIKE contrition without an examination of conscience (“I beg forgiveness, Lord, for something or other, but I’m not quite sure what”), New Year resolutions are a bit bare without some sort of “stocktaking”.

In his meditation for December 29, Francis Fernandez* provides us with one example of just that sort of opportunity for reflection with his theme of “The duty of Christians to create a more just and more human society”.While that might seem a rather tall order for the average Catholic with a lot of other things to occupy his mind, we need to remember that Fernandez never asks for any big sacrifices or deep commitments beyond what should be part of our daily living of our faith.

Christ, he reminds us, had little to say about the Romans or their empire. “My kingdom is not of this world”, he told Pilate, though when the Jews tried to trap him with the question of tribute to Rome, his reply was to “render to Caesar what is Caesar’s” before adding “…and to God what is God’s” and in his Encyclical Populorum progressio Paul VI has the following to say:

It behoves Christians … to contribute to a world order that is more just, more human and more Christian without in any way compromising the Church.

The Church, Fernandez tells us, does not fulfill her purpose in solving temporal problems, following Christ in his reply to Pilate and refusing to be considered a judge in purely human affairs (see Luke 12,13).

“Even so,” says Fernandez, “no Christian should stand aside from the need to do everything in his power to solve the enormous social problems that now afflict mankind.”

Paul VI again:

Let each one examine himself to see what he has done up to now and what more he ought to accomplish. It is not enough to cite general principles, make resolutions, condemn grave injustices, make denunciations … None of this will carry any weight unless accompanied in each person by a more lively realisation of his own responsibility and by effective action. It is too easy to make other people responsible for today’s injustices …

[Instruction on Christian Freedom and Liberation, Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 1986]

Fernandez’s solution is that we — all of us — need through our personal apostolate to try to make the world more Christian which, he argues, will thereby make it more human.

And to the extent that we succeed in this, by creating a more human environment in social, family and working conditions, we are at the same time creating a climate in which Christ can be more easily known and loved.

A decision to put into practice the virtue of justice, without reservations, will lead us to pray daily for the leaders of government, business enterprises, welfare services, etc. For the solution to the major social and human problems of today depends to a great extent on such people.

The cynics among us might be more inclined to replace “solution to” with “causes of” and who is to say we would be wrong? But there is nothing to be gained by dismissing out of hand those in authority who we consider to be incompetent, venal, self-seeking, corrupt, if only because they are there because we elect them or buy the products the make and because we know, in our heart of hearts, that the majority are good people (or at least no worse than we are) who struggle to do their best (as we do) often for little thanks and variable reward.

They need our prayers and if we do nothing else in the way of resolutions for 2017 (which has the potential to be a bit of a roller-coaster ride in several countries!) let us at least promise to to say a prayer or dedicate a decade of our Rosary each day to the world’s civic and business leaders. We have imposed heavy burdens on them; a prayer is the least we can do for them.

* In Conversation with God, vol 1 part 2: Christmas & Epiphany
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